Presbyterians Today

APR-MAY 2018

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20 APRIL/MAY 2018 | Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay "The flexible wineskin is a metaphor that needs to be visited and revisited for our mission and our church," Codington said. "The structures we use should be used for hospitality." Codington also serves other congregations as well, one of which turned its building into a food pantry and another that is converting unused classroom space into rooms for a homeless shelter. Owning a building The Revs. James B. and Renée Notkin co-pastor Union Church in Seattle, which is on some of the most expensive real estate in the United States. After renting space for more than four years, the young congrega- tion decided to buy the building in which they were worshiping, despite the cost. The Union Church building is more than a once-a-week sanc- tuary. Located in the heart of the Amazon complex, the building is also a coffee and chocolate shop as well as a rentable venue for weddings, events and meetings. Union Church has had the support of University Presbyterian Church of Seattle and other congregations. James is quick to point out, however, that they don't sell coffee during the week to pay the pricey mortgage, but because it's what God is calling them to do. Renée adds that they feel called to be a blessing in that neighborhood. "We are right in the middle of Amazon-land. We are intentionally a space where people can pause and engage with each other. We are a respite for a community that has people in front of computers all day and spend their time feeling isolated," she said. Having wrestled with building and mission questions, the Notkins suggest that congregations ask how they might reinvent themselves as part of their community. Even established congregations can find new purposes for their buildings if they understand what the community needs. Renée suggests that all church leaders do what church planters do. "Hang out where people are. Show up at school events and figure out what is missing in your neighbor- hood," she said. "Too often we either have public space or private space, but the church can occupy a middle ground. The church building is owned by people who care about the welfare of the neighborhood." Churchyards as mission fields Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Asheville, North Carolina, used to be known as the church next to McDonald's. Today it's known as the church next to the big garden. Grace Covenant discovered churches are more than buildings. Yards and graveyards can be part of Christ's mission, too. Eight years ago, the leaders of Grace Covenant decided to plow their front yard to grow food. The congregation sent out a note to the people who lived around the church and invited them to come to a potluck to talk about the garden. Today the garden is maintained by both members and nonmembers. Garden coordinator Buzz Durham said the individual plots aren't rented. Every year, the group gathers to collectively decide what to plant. Durham says the garden is about loving the people in the neighborhood rather than getting people in the pews. "Many churches spend an enormous amount of money and energy on the one great hour of worship," Durham said. "But the number one rule is that we have to walk the talk of faith. That goes back to the simple call we got from Jesus to love our neighbor and look after the people on the margins. That's the criteria we should use for thinking about property." Durham said gardening, like ministry, is all about taking risks. For Grace Covenant, it was a risk that paid off as the community donated more than 8,000 pounds of fresh produce to local organizations chosen by the gardeners in 2017. While Pittsburgh's Open Door congregation doesn't own a church, it does own a building and property — a greenhouse and three acres of land that is used for Garfield Community Farm, a ministry it never could have afforded if they had built or JEFFREY A. VAMOS The Community Well at the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, is a place where people can seek health and wholeness — together. Here, medical kits are assembled for a mission project.

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